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Warriors survive scare from Dragons to lock in top-four berth

The Warriors will finish in the top four for the first time since 2007 after a 18-6 win over the Dragons in Auckland on Friday night.

The victory was the Warriors' 16th of the season but looks to have come at a cost with five-eighth Luke Metcalf suffering a hamstring injury.

In a bizarre opening to the match the Warriors allowed the kick-off to bounce and the ball ended up with Dragons centre Zac Lomax who dived over to score, but the bunker ruled Lomax had lost the ball into Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad as he tried to collect it.

On the back of a six-again call the Warriors opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Adam Pompey took a pass from Metcalf and sliced back infield on an angled run to bag his fifth try of the season.

Adam Pompey Try

A mistake at dummy half by Dragons hooker Connor Muhleisen invited the Warriors into the red zone and Nicoll-Klokstad made them pay when he exploded through a Lomax tackle to make it 10-0.

A double blow for the Dragons in the 26th minute when debutant Sione Finau (leg) and Lomax (head knock) left the field and hooker Jacob Liddle was forced to play on the left wing.

The home side should have gone further ahead in the 35th minute but Addin Fonua-Blake lost the ball as he was attempting to ground it and the Red V hung on.

Zac Lomax Try

The Dragons looked to have opened their account in the 53rd minute when Liddle snuck over from dummy half but replays showed he had lost control of the ball before getting it down.

With 19 minutes to play the Dragons did get on the board after a Ben Hunt bomb ended up in the hands of Billy Burns, who got a flick pass away to Lomax to dot down for his seventh try of the season.

A mistake by Freddy Lussick with seven minutes to play gave the Dragons great field position but Zane Musgrove spilled the ball on the second tackle and the Warriors came away.

The Warriors then sealed the win when Shaun Johnson grubbered into the in-goal, Dragons fullback Tyrell Sloan made a mess of cleaning it up and Fonua-Blake grounded it. Pompey's conversion made it 16-6 before he added a late penalty goal for a 12-point win.

The Warriors have now won seven in a row for the first time since Round 7-14, 2002, when they won eight straight.

Match Snapshot

  • Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson played his 250th NRL game.
  • Dragons centre Zac Lomax left the field in the 26th minute for a HIA which he passed.
  • The Warriors made a successful captain's challenge call in the 33rd minute when the referee ruled they had stripped the ball from Billy Burns but the bunker ruled lost ball.
  • Dragons froward Dan Russell left the field in the 33rd minute for a HIA after a head clash. He passed and was able to return.
  • Warriors fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad ran for 203 metres and had nine tackle breaks.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad Try

  • New Zealand-born Victorian Sione Finau made his NRL debut for the Dragons but had to be carried from the field in the 26th minute with an ankle injury.
  • Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake ran for 216 metres and Tohu Harris made 179 metres.
  • Dragons prop Blake Lawrie got through a power of work in defence with 44 tackles and also ran for 205 metres.
  • The Dragons made a successful captain's challenge call in the 66th minute when the referee ruled Mikaele Ravalawa had lost the ball but the bunker found Wayde Egan had stripped it.
  • The Dragons have lost all 12 games away from home in 2023.

Metcalf leaves the field

Play of the Game

Seven seconds is all it took for the game to spring to life after the Warriors allowed the kick-off to bounce and almost paid the ultimate price. Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak tried to tap the bouncing ball back to his fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad but Dragons centre Zac Lomax came flying through and looked to have scored the fastest try in NRL history. Unfortunately for the Red V, replays showed Lomax had knocked the ball on into CNK as he tried to pull it in and the Warriors' blushes were saved.

The quickest ever try denied

What They Said

"It’s like Groundhog Day for us, we are giving ourselves the best chance to win games and we are finding ways to not win them. Nothing went our way, 45 percent possession, playing a good team at home [with] 25,000 loud fans. To be in the game with seven minutes to go there… disappointing and frustrating." – interim Dragons coach Ryan Carr. 

Dragons: Round 26

"I thought the boys defended unbelievable tonight. They [the Dragons] scored a try from a kick, not from breaking us down, I never thought they really looked like doing that. Top four – unbelievable achievement for the club… we have got another goal now, so we’re going to move on pretty quick." – Warriors coach Andrew Webster.

Warriors: Round 26

What's Next

The Warriors finish the regular season in Brisbane with a clash against the Dolphins, who they beat 30-8 in Auckland in Round 14.

The Dragons host the rampant Knights outfit at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday night in Round 27.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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